Though this is the 46th Super Bowl, programmers have only been bringing big-name acts in for the halftime show since about 1991, when New Kids on the Block sang “Step by Step.” Before that, the entertainment was mostly marching bands from the state where the teams were playing or performers who didn’t exactly reflect the tastes of the masses, like Carol Channing. We re-watched the halftime shows and picked our five favorites.

1. U2, 2002

It was fewer than five months since the attacks of 9/11, and this three-song set from Dublin’s finest did a heroic job of honoring those who died that day and saluting the country that U2 has always wished they were from, as Bono revealed an American flag close to his heart. Criticize Bono all you want for pandering, but even now it’s hard not to get misty as the names of 9/11 victims scroll down a huge screen as U2 plays “MLK” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

2. Prince, 2007

His royal purpleness has always been known for his stadium-sized ego, but what made this performance unique is that despite performing on a stage shaped like the symbol that once served as his name, the dude performed a medley of seven songs, only three of which were his. He touched upon others by Queen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and the Foo Fighters. But since he is Prince, he obviously made all of these tunes his own.

3. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, 2009

To condense a Springsteen concert experience into 13 minutes sounds almost as preposterous as trying to fit the complete works of Shakespeare onto a Bazooka Joe comic. But the Boss was able to fill a four-song suite with whole lot of hokey fun, in-cluding a gospel choir, a flag-throwing ref, a knee-slide across the stage, some mic-stand gymnastics and the return to the stage of Big Man Clarence Clemons, who had just had both knees replaced only a few months previously.

 

4. Michael Jackson, 1993

Billed as “an unprecedented Super Bowl spectacular,” this show by the King of Pop was reportedly one of the most watched in TV history and would change the way networks programmed halftime. This was MJ just months before he was accused of sex-ually abusing children. It’s ee-rie now to hear him say, “no one should have to suffer, especially our children,” but the performance itself was touching (not the bad kind) as he sang “Heal the World,” and the crowd held up placards to form drawings by kids.

5. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, 2004

Call it “Nipplegate” if you must, but we always pre-ferred “Super Boob Sunday.” Watching this performance by Michael’s little sister, it’s amazing how the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” became the 00’s version of “I didn’t inhale.” Seriously, we were supposed to believe that Janet just happened to be wearing a metal sunburst around her areola? Regardless of how planned or unplanned the “bet I’ll have you nekkid by the end of this song” ending was, the duet with JT on “Rock Your Body” definitely still holds up eight(!) years later.

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